A devoted gardener, Jonathan Friesner wondered how he could grow food during Minnesota’s long off-season. Now, he is part of a six-person collaboration that has solved the challenge using their new product, GroShed. An automated indoor agriculture solution, a GroShed building—or farm—employs nutrient-rich water rather than soil and can be used to grow produce year-round.
The all-volunteer GroShed team is investing their time, effort, and money in this passion project. “There is lots of processed food around here,” Friesner said. “Gaining access to fresh, local foods is almost impossible in Northern Minnesota outside of our short growing season.”
To change the equation, Friesner, a former contractor, and his partners have scaled down typical hydroponics echnology so the average person can grow what they want: tomatoes, broccoli, onions, herbs, lettuces, peppers, chilies.
By early 2020, GroShed had sold seven shed-sized farms and was fielding interest from a range of potential customers—from restaurants to food shelves. For now, the startup is sticking to Minnesota customers. “We want to see as many farms as possible in our own state so we can warranty and fix things easily,” said Friesner.
He dreams of bringing fresh food to Minnesotans, and he envisions boosting the state’s economy as larger commercial farmers realize GroShed’s potential for providing winter income. “Rural Minnesota is a place of great innovation and untapped resources, but we’re frequently overlooked and can’t always compete with Twin Cities operations,” he said. “It’s so cool that the Initiative Foundation is seeking out ingenuity and entrepreneurship in the rest of the state. [Ours] is a big mission, but we absolutely believe it’s doable.”
Jonathan’s mentor is Mike Dillon, President of Lexington Manufacturing in Brainerd.